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As Wen Jiabao departs, China's dam plans to accelerate

Published on Nov 19, 2012 6:32 AM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The number of new hydropower projects in China could surge as the country's populist premier Wen Jiabao retires and a new leadership team races to meet ambitious 2020 energy goals.

Dam building slowed considerably under Mr Wen, who personally intervened to block hydropower projects and avoid the potential for protest from local populations. Projects such as the US$59 billion (S$72.4 billion) Three Gorges Dam have been the focus of criticism over the social and environmental cost China is paying for development.

More dams could be a tough sell as an increasingly affluent public pushes back against a "growth at all costs" economic model.

As China's new leaders consider how to power expansion, however, they have little choice but to push ahead with hydropower given that alternatives like coal or nuclear fueled power may be even less palatable to the population.

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